Review: The Hurt Locker

Hello all, I have returned from the land of beavers and ducks: Oregon. I had a very good time up there. The weather didn’t quite cooperate with our plans, but we made it work nonetheless. Portland is a wonderful city. It reminds me of a cleaner, car-less San Francisco. Seriously Portland people: where on earth were all the cars in the city? If you’d like to see some of the pictures I took, you can check them out on my twitpic site (link can be found on the right). I have to apologize for the quality, I have a rather old cell phone.

The idea for today was to review The Men Who Stare At Goats, but unfortunately my DVD player has decided to not work today. So, I had to go to plan B. I saw this while I was up in Oregon. It also happened to do very well at this year’s Academy Awards.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty

Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow

War is an extremely polarizing subject. Too often do we get into debates with one another over the subject. “Should we or should we not be there?” “What are we fighting for?” “Are we being lied to?” “We have to win!/Bring them back home!” I know I’ve personally engaged in this type of debate with others. There’s really nothing wrong with it, either. However, we (regardless of our politics) tend to forget about the most important people in the situation: those over there doing the fighting.

The Hurt Locker does not forget about these brave souls. It takes in post-Invasion Iraq (circa 2004). The US has gone in and was now in mop-up duty. The movie follows an US Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, that is the guy who take all the bombs (as in found in car bombs, for example), try to defuse them and those who are there to protect him while doing so.

The movie opens with what seems to be a routine disarming. The three members of the squad go about their business, joking around in the process. As with anything in a warzone, things don’t go according to plan. In the end, the unit’s leader, Staff Sergeant Thompson (played by Guy Pearce) ends up dead. The junior member of the group, Specialist Eldridge (Geraghty) blames himself as he couldn’t pull the trigger on the man who remote detonated the bomb.

This is where Sergeant First Class William James (Renner) comes in. He becomes the new leader of the EOD unit. He immediately shows how different he was from Thompson. Thompson and his protege, Sergeant Sanborn (Mackie), were always by the book. James can be considered the typical loose cannon, cowboy type. He does things his way and the other see him as reckless, taking unnecessary risks.  It takes an encounter with a sniper for the unit to accept him and for him to show his true colors as a leader.

This movie is about so much more than encounter to encounter than it is about war and what it does to the soldier. Sanborn is at a constant conflict within himself. He wants to become the head of an unit of his own, even asking if James thought he was ready to don the protective suit (the answer is no, in case you were wondering). While all of that is going on, he weighing the option of if he’s ready to  start a family or not. As stated before, Eldridge is trying to come to grips with the death of Thompson and how he feels personally responsible for it.

It is James that is the most fascinating character of the three. As the movie unravels, you begin to see why he acts the way he does. He takes every encounter with the enemy (be it in bomb or human form) as a personal challenge. He has to out think them. He has to win. He takes parts of the bombs he disarms as tokens (“This box is full of stuff that almost killed me”). He has gone from being an adrenaline junkie to something much worse. In an heartbreaking moment with his infant son, you realize that the movie’s tagline is all too true for James.

The film is extremely well done. I never once got bored with it. It is intense as it is disturbing. This is quite an accomplishment for Kathryn Bigelow as her career didn’t show any signs of being able to direct a movie like this (Yes, I know Point Break is awesome). The acting is all spectacular. Geraghty is great as the youngest member of the unit really showing the fear one would expect to feel in the situation. Mackie (I’ve only seeing him in a strong turn in We Are Marshall) held the movie together. He is the ground, the man caught between ambition and family. In the end it’s Modesto, CA’s (hometown shoutout!) own Renner that steals the show. If Mackie provides the ground to the movie, it’s Renner that gets to shine on it. His Oscar nomination is well deserved.

Bottom Line: The Hurt Locker is a great movie. It grabs your attention from the opening scene and just does not let it go. Kathryn Bigelow really came out of nowhere to make a movie like this. The cast is all great, led by a star making role by Jeremy Renner. It’s obvious to see how this won as many awards as it did, including Best Picture.

9/10 (Highly Recommended).

Sorry for the delay. My DVD player troubles really messed up my schedule. I’ll be back again Wednesday with something else. I’m not entire sure with what yet. How’s that for planning ahead?

Until then…

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